Safety Tips Archives - Central County Fire & Rescue

Avoid DIY Disasters: Electricity

Do You Have Copper or Aluminum Wiring? The Difference Matters.

Tasked with updating those ancient light switches in the kitchen? Standing in front of the hundreds of options available at the home improvement store, you narrow it down to two choices — one is $4, the other is 75 cents. But if you don’t know what type of wiring is in your home, it’s a decision that could cost you much more than the few dollar difference between the two switches.

Your home was built with either copper or aluminum wiring. Knowing which one you’re working with is critically important when considering any electrical improvements or repairs.

Due to the exorbitant cost of copper in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many homes built during this time have aluminum wiring. It was quickly discovered, however, that the quality of the aluminum being used put these homes at a higher risk for fires. A study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that homes built before 1972 and wired with aluminum are 55 times more likely to have an outlet wiring connection reach fire hazard conditions than those wired with copper. This risk can increase if the wrong replacement parts are used or if rewiring is done incorrectly.

Copper and aluminum wired electrical systems are not interchangeable. They require different types of wiring, switches and connectors, with the aluminum components often being quite a bit more expensive than their copper counterparts.

“Beyond making sure you are using the correct type of wiring and connectors, working with electricity is tricky and dangerous, with a risk for electrocution injuries, home fires and more,” CCFR Assistant Chief Steve Brown says. “When you are considering home improvement projects, leave the electrical projects to a qualified electrician. What might be a higher upfront investment will be worth it in the long run.”

Brown has witnessed these types of fires as recently as this year, when an improperly wired electric cooktop set a house ablaze right here in our community.

If you have a home built in the 1960s or ‘70s, it can be tricky to determine whether you have aluminum or copper wiring because of the way it was originally labeled. If you think you may have aluminum wiring, it is important to have your home evaluated by a qualified electrician to determine whether it should be replaced or repaired. When hiring an electrician, ensure they are licensed and have experience with both aluminum and copper wiring.

Still trying to decide which switch to get? It’s time to call an electrician.

Caution! Signs of electrical problems: (1) Hot light switches or receptacles; (2) Flickering or buzzing lights; (3) Frayed wires; (4) Circuits that don’t work; (5) Discolored outlets or switches; (6) Electrical shocks when plugging something in or touching switches; (7) Burning smell coming from outlets or switches

 

 

 

Vacation Rentals, Fire Safety and You

Dreaming of your next vacation? Thinking of staying in a vacation rental (ie. Airbnb, VRBO, etc.) instead of a hotel? Before you make your reservations, make sure you read this first!

A 2018 study published in the journal Injury Prevention found that many Airbnb properties lack basic fire safety features. According to the study, 20 percent of Airbnb property owners did not report having smoke alarms; 42.5 percent did not report having carbon monoxide alarms; and 58 percent didn’t report having fire extinguishers.

While fire safety advocates have urged Airbnb and similar vacation or short-term rental companies to enforce current National Fire Protection Association fire safety standards, without uniform regulation across the country, it’s essential that travelers be proactive about fire safety at their home away from home.

If you decide to stay at an Airbnb, VRBO or other rental property while traveling this spring/summer, make sure to review this safety checklist from the NFPA:

  • Do your homework before making a reservation. You should be able to find more information about local regulations online, which you can then discuss with the host before arrival. This is a good time to discuss the property’s preparedness for other emergencies (such as a power outage or natural disaster).
  • Make a list that includes the property’s address, local emergency numbers, emergency contact information for the owner and notes from the owner about all escape routes/exits.
  • Each room should have at least two ways to escape during an emergency.
  • Upon arrival, do a walkthrough of the property to check for:
    • Working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every sleeping room and outside each sleeping area, as well as carbon monoxide alarms on every level of the home and outside each sleeping area.
    • Portable fire extinguishers that are easy to reach.
    • Exterior doors and windows that are easy to open.
    • Pathways clear of any tripping hazards.

By following this simple checklist and acting as your own fire safety advocate, you can relax and know that your vacation won’t go up in smoke!

Feel Safe in Public Spaces

We work hard to protect our homes from fire, by installing and regularly testing smoke alarms, avoiding common fire hazards and teaching fire safety to family members of all ages.

But do you know how to practice fire safety when you’re out in public places? A fire can happen anywhere, anytime, and in an unfamiliar setting, it’s easy to panic. The National Fire Protection Association has put together some suggestions to help you feel safe wherever you go!

Before You Enter

Before you enter any public building, take a good look around and make sure it feels safe, well maintained and easy to exit. You should have a clearly communicated exit plan, as well as an agreed-upon meeting point and a designated emergency contact in case you need to leave the building quickly. You should locate all available exits; plan to use the closest exit, as the main exit might not always be accessible during an emergency.

Once Inside

After identifying all available exits, you’ll want to make sure the path to each exit is clear, and that exit doors are not blocked or chained. Public spaces should have at least two clear exits.

Take note of any other possible fire hazards, such as overcrowding, unsafe heat sources, pyrotechnics or lack of standard safety systems such as sprinklers and smoke alarms.

If you do not feel safe in the building, leave immediately. If necessary, report violations to building management and the local fire marshal.

During An Emergency

The best thing you can do in the face of a fire is to react immediately.

“If an alarm sounds, you see smoke or fire, or some other unusual disturbance immediately exit the building in an orderly fashion,” the NFPA warns.

Then, get out — and stay out! — so that trained firefighters can conduct rescue operations.

For more safety tips, visit nfpa.org.

Eclipse Safety 2017

Solar Eclipse safety glasses

No one wants to miss out on Aug. 21’s total solar eclipse. Here are some CCFR-approved tips to make sure you and your family are able to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime event safely!

Viewing the Eclipse

The most-often given piece of eclipse safety advice — don’t look directly at it — can’t be given often enough. Looking directly at a solar eclipse can result in permanent vision loss.

Instead, viewers should wear an approved pair of solar viewers, purchased from a reputable manufacturer and featuring an ISO 12312-2 certification. Eclipse glasses are thousands of times darker than regular sunglasses and block out all other light. Keep a close eye on curious kids, who might be tempted to take their glasses off, or keep them indoors until the two or so minutes of totality, when it is safe to view the eclipse without solar viewers. Not everyone in St. Louis is in the path of totality; click here for NASA’s map to determine where your location falls in the path.

Driving During the Eclipse

Parts of the St. Louis area will see a total eclipse, while others will see a partial eclipse. Tourists are already flocking to towns in the path of totality and traffic is expected to be a major issue in the area. If you are planning to drive somewhere to view the eclipse, give yourself plenty of time to get there and make sure you keep these recommendations from the Department of Transportation in mind if you end up behind the wheel during the event:

  • Do not stop or park on the side of the highway. Not only is it a traffic violation for motorists to stop on a highway unless they’re experiencing an emergency, it increases the likelihood of an accident.
  • Do not take your eyes off the road to view the eclipse or use cellphones or cameras while driving to photograph the eclipse.
  • Do not wear eclipse safety glasses while driving. The glasses filter out most visible light, essentially blinding motorists.
  • Those living or staying inside or near the path of totality should avoid unnecessary road travel on Monday due to the increased volume.
  • If you’re behind the wheel when the sun is entirely or mostly blocked, turn on your headlights.
  • Depending on your location, when the eclipse appears will vary. Plan travel accordingly if possible.

Severe Weather

spring storm image

Being prepared before, and knowing what to do after the storm hits are critical to the safety of those who experience severe weather.

Preparing For The Storm

  • Practice your emergency escape plan; know two ways out of each room of the house.
  • Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio.
  • Charge cell phones, or other battery-operated devices that can keep you aware of severe weather.
  • Remember that a warning means that severe weather has been reported in the area, while a watch means that conditions are favorable.

During The Storm

  • Keep the NOAA radio on. If you do not have one, stay tuned to local television or radio news.
  • If you hear the severe weather sirens, head to the basement or a room on the lowest level of the house with no windows immediately. “Most injuries are caused by flying debris, so do whatever possible to find cover,” says Mason.
  • If you see a green colored sky, large hail, a large, dark, low-lying cloud or hear a loud roar that sounds like a freight train take cover immediately.

After the Storm

  • Avoid downed power lines, and items touching these lines.
  • Do not move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
  • Be cautious of exposed nails and broken glass.
  • If it is dark do not use candles or any open flames, use a flashlight.
  • Call 911 immediately if anyone is injured, you see frayed wiring or sparks, the odor of something burning, or a gas odor.

Additional Resources

National Weather Service

NOAA

Take 2

Take 2 logo

It’s simple, working smoke alarms save lives. Three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

CCFR encourages everyone to take two minutes on the second of every month to check their smoke alarms.You can test your alarm by pressing the test button in the center of the alarm.

If you cannot reach your smoke alarm, cannot change the batteries, or have other questions about your smoke alarm contact CCFR for complimentary assistance at 636.970.9700 or email us.

 

 

Toy Box Danger

toyboxes

Millions of toy boxes, storage containers and hope chests have lids that automatically latch shut, or can close suddenly. This can be deadly if a child climbs inside. The recent death of two children prompted the Consumer Product Safety Commission to renew its warning to consumers about the dangers of these boxes. Click here for details.

10 Years

10 candle

In 2004 Facebook was launched and Friends left our televisions. It seems like yesterday, but if that’s the last time you replaced your smoke alarms it’s time for a change.

“Working smoke detectors are critical to saving lives in a house fire, and as they age they become less reliable,” says CCFR Chief Russ Mason. As the electrical components in the alarms get older they become more susceptible to false alarms and other problems.

Smoke alarms save lives by giving people an opportunity to escape a fire before it is too late. “Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms,” says Mason. “Simply updating and maintaining your smoke detectors could save your life.”

Installation

Install smoke alarms:

  • On every level of your home
  • Inside and outside sleeping areas
  • High on a wall, or on the ceiling
  • Away from air vents and windows
  • At the highest point of pitched ceilings

Battery Replacement

  • Standard battery operated smoke alarm batteries need to be replaced every six months.
  • Long lasting battery smoke alarms should be replaced according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Hard-wired smoke alarms should have the back-up battery replaced once a year.

If you do not know how, or cannot replace your smoke alarm batteries, cannot afford a smoke alarm, or have other smoke alarm questions CCFR can provide complimentary assistance. Call CCFR at 636.970.9700, or e-mail us for details.

Download our smoke detector brochure, or learn more here.

Business Alert

smoldering fire

Two spontaneous combustion fires hit local businesses.

Spontaneous combustion fires may sound like something out of a science fiction movie; unfortunately it is a dangerous situation that has hit two local businesses in the past year. In both of the incidents, freshly laundered towels placed on a counter caused a chemical reaction to occur, and a fire ensued.

When towels or other linens soiled with cooking oil or cleaning chemicals are washed in a normal washer and dryer they are not truly clean; residue remains on the linens. The heat of the dryer can start and accelerate the spontaneous heating process of the oil residue left in the towels. When they are piled together the heat has no way to escape and the natural material continues to heat up until a fire occurs. A similar reaction can occur if a washer or dryer used to launder soiled linens is not cleaned and well maintained.

We highly recommend that you send your laundry out to a commercial laundry service that has the proper equipment to handle these volatile oils and cleaning chemicals.

Tips to Avoid Spontaneous Combustion

  • Use a commercial laundry service.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on all cleaning supplies and equipment.
  • Do not leave items soiled by oil or other flammable items in a pile, even if they are freshly laundered.
  • Make sure that the washer and dryer are clean and well maintained.
  • If rags have been used for painting, wood-finishing or oil-based projects, hang them outside to dry, or place them in an airtight metal container that is placed away from the building, and do not launder them.

If you have any questions about how to keep your business safe, or if you would like CCFR firefighters to provide complimentary employee training on fire extinguisher usage, or other safety topics please do not hesitate to call us at 636.970.9700 or send us an email. With your help we can keep our community safe.